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I remember Lazaris talking about change on his tape
The Seven Secrets of Success
. Lazaris, for those who don’t know, is allegedly an entity channelled through one Jach Purcel in the US and is responsible for a huge number of weekend seminars and workshops over the past 30 years.
Do I believe in channelling? Not really, though I used to when I was younger. Nevertheless, something that has stuck with me over the years is Lazaris’s take on change; specifically, that change never happens in the future; it only ever happens now – if indeed it is going to happen at all.
A few years ago I applied for an art teaching post in a school in Richmond. I was successful in my application but turned it down.
I remember the interview panel being very impressed with my presentation on my then state of the art black Apple Powerbook, the same one Carrie used in
Sex and the City
. When reviewing my employment record the headteacher described it as ďsomewhat chequeredĒ. I agreed, saying thatís how Iíd planned it. I think she was a little taken aback by my forthright response.
Change is something Iíve historically embraced and itís served me well.
Paradoxically, despite my predilection for change, whilst in the midst of any given phase of my life Iíve often felt like I was standing still. Then, once the next phase has kicked in, Iím able to re-evaluate things and see that what seemed like 'stuckness' was merely the view from within.
Right now Iím contemplating the challenge of leaving London for good and moving back to Australia, Itís a change that my partner and I have been contemplating on and off for some time. I have a few misgivings about the prospect, but then change is, by definition, often scary.
Change implies risk. Real change, that is. When I was younger and a lot more impulsive the idea of throwing caution to the wind was a natural part of the process and in many ways fuelled the desire for change. The question Iím grappling with now is that of the risks involved. Iíve reached an age and stage where the tendency towards security is as strong, if not stronger, than the desire for change. But having a younger partner means I have to take someone elseís desires and ambitions into account as well. And that means being willing to change.
The change Iím talking about involves selling our property here in London and moving back to Melbourne. Once there the idea is to demolish one of our properties there and build our dream home while living in our apartment in the heart of the city. Once completed we would have a very high spec modernist townhouse with studio and roof garden and the option of renting out two of the three double bedrooms with ensuite. It sounds great. Melbourne is a fabulous city by any standards. Even so, itís a big project, the idea of which can make me nervous.
Is nervous the right word? Itís certainly a factor. Itís linked to the risk factor which in turn is linked to employment. Iím currently the KS3 manager of a pupil referral unit. Iíve taken a failing enterprise and turned it around and over the next year stand to quadruple its size, not to mention its effectiveness. Itís the latest phase of a nine year involvement in the previously unexplored area of special needs. If I remain in London my employment prospects and therefore my income are pretty much assured until retirement.
But if I go back to Australia, then what?
Fear choices and growth choices. I know life isnít always as black and white as that but when it comes to making major decisions itís a useful way to look at things. And as the saying goes, if you always do what youíve always done youíll always get what you've always got. The only way to have a different future is to change things now. So what am I afraid of? Age, primarily. I worry that my age may go against me when applying for work in Melbourne, and that fear raises other issues, namely, trust and faith in myself.
What I donít have at the moment is a clear vision of how it may all pan out, and by vision I mean something I can really get my teeth into. I can imagine being back in Melbourne but I canít see beyond the hassle and the uncertainty. Itís where the age issue creeps in. My partner who is seven years younger than me wants to hit the ground running: move back, demolish, start rebuilding. I favour a more cautious approach. Iím less keen to throw caution to the wind this time. I mean, what if it all goes pear shaped?
I received a call from a dear friend the other day that has got wind of our plans. Cautious at the best of times, she made her concerns quite clear: Iíd be competing with people younger and cheaper for work; the economic conditions favour prudence in all matters financial; itís not a time for reckless risk taking, plus weíre both in secure, well paid employment here in London with excellent prospects for future promotion. With no guarantee of work weíd both be foolish to move back at this time.
I canít deny she put a finger on a raw nerve.
For my partner, moving back and building the dream home has been a long nurtured ambition, and while I donít share the same level of enthusiasm Iím certainly not averse to the idea.
Or am I? My preference would be to move back and buy somewhere new. It isn't the idea of moving back that troubles me but rather the thought of the financial uncertainty. A new build is not cheap and nor are our tastes. I guess it comes back to the issue of not yet having a clear vision of what our lives will look like post build.
Actually, I donít have especially expensive tastes. I can get by on very little. And as a couple weíre far from extravagant: some would even say frugal. Weíve simply managed our money well. When we first met 15 years ago we could barely raise $10,000 in total assets between us. And itís not me thatís the money and asset manager. Left to my own devices I would most likely be turning 50 and still happily renting. So thereís another trust issue here, that of trusting in someone elseís judgement. And if the truth be told, Iíve not been disappointed yet.
We spend so much of our lives fixated on whatís to come that itís easy to lose sight of what weíve already achieved. Had someone gazed into a crystal ball when I was 20 and described what the next 30 years were going to be like I donít think I would have been disappointed. So if Iím going to look ahead towards what the next 30 years have to offer, 15 of which will be spent in retirement, Iím going to have to be both bold and imaginative. Because to be any other way would be to sell myself short.
Itís about being proactive. Until now Iíve taken a back seat view of things. What I need to do is climb into the driverís seat and own the road. To move out of oneís comfort zone is to put oneself out there in the race. If life is always moving forward then by definition standing still implies one is moving backwards.
We have a comfortable life here in London, yes, but comfort isnít everything. If Iím honest our lives have become somewhat dull, an ongoing cycle of work, home bed; work, home bed.
And we can do better than that.
I donít remember a great deal about my science classes at school and when I do itís the funny things that come to mind, like when I brought the house down by innocently asking Mrs. Harbison how big Uranus was. But I do recall being intrigued by the notion of inertia and of how itís harder to get something moving once itís stopped. The parallel with life was not lost on me even at the tender age of 15.
The truth is, for all our financial and professional achievements weíve both allowed ourselves to slide into a state of inertia.
Once I commit to something I fly with it. It may take me a while to reach that point. I have a very strong cautious streak. But I can be reckless in equal measure. Moving country is no half-hearted venture. I should know; Iíve done it enough times. But thatís the thing - I have done it before and under dire circumstances. Why shouldnít this be a walk in the park? Why shouldnít I adopt a gun ho, can do attitude? Indeed, why shouldnít I choose to take this on like itís the best thing that could ever happen to us?
I work on a daily basis with disaffected kids who have no idea what they want to be in life. With the possible exception of one or two they seem to be incapable of imagining anything that could remotely be considered challenging. Challenge is, by and large, the very thing that theyíre trying to avoid. Thatís not to say some of them wonít end up making something of themselves, but it serves to remind me that life is what you make it, regardless of your circumstances. Whatís more, life doesnít come knocking at your door. Quite the reverse, in fact.
Thinking outside the box. Itís become such a clichť but that doesnít detract from its implicit wisdom. We can become very comfortable in our little boxes. Things are familiar, safe even. Not that thereís anything wrong with that. Itís just that thereís a temptation to think of oneís box as oneís world when in fact itís just a box. And if you have a really nice, comfortable box itís all too easy to think of everything outside the box as either scary or irrelevant. Which is silly really, because whatís outside the box is simply the rest of the world.
There is a need to be proactive on various fronts. First and foremost thereís the need to investigate what work opportunities exist back in Melbourne. Given that Iím going to be back there next month that shouldnít be too complicated. Next, I need to own the re-build project. For far too long Iíve avoided this one, my reluctance being symptomatic of the fear and uncertainty around the issue of securing work. Then thereís the whole issue of my own physical state. I have a demanding job which is only going to become more so. Some kind of balance is required.
I heard abut
from two colleagues on two consecutive days so I decided to go online and watch the 20 minute video. While unimpressed by the slick, dumbed down presentation I couldnít help smiling at the underlying message. Itís nothing I havenít heard before but it did serve to remind me of things Iíve known about for a long time but have tended to relegate to the Ďbeen there, done thatí bin. Yet the times when I have been most bold and adventurous in life are the times when Iíve trusted in the ability of life to deliver.
Turning 50 is as good a time as any to remember that without a fit and healthy body Iím not going to be able to achieve as much in life as I would like to. And itís not like I donít have the skills to maintain a healthy body. I know how to meditate, Iím a decent swimmer, I know how to do yoga, I enjoy a power walk and I know how to make healthy choices when it comes to food. Itís easy to let things slide but at my age I start to do so at my peril.
There are days when Iím quite resolved about the idea of being permanently based back in Melbourne. Itís an easy city to live in Ė decent beaches, a great cafť culture, only two hours from the snow fields in winter and a generally kinder climate than other parts of the country. But there are other days when the idea of relinquishing what we have here in London is unnerving. For all its drawbacks itís an amazing place to live. Still, nothing lasts forever. What I do know is once weíve made the move a whole new life will start to kick in.
When a member of my staff finds themselves getting stressed I tell them to remember that itís only a job. Some might argue that this sort of advice is erroneous. I would disagree. Itís a take on things that ultimately serves to make us not less productive but more so. Itís all to easy to become so consumed in the moment that the bigger picture becomes lost and this in turn is neither good for the staff nor the kids. Stresses come and go in waves; buttons get pressed and patience gets tested. Itís just the nature of the job.
Why do we write? What is it that compels some of us to commit thoughts to paper, regardless of whether we have an audience or not? Iíve been writing 100 words a day for over three years now. If Iím honest, I donít always adhere strictly to the rules. I indulge myself in a little bit of catch up from time to time. Real life intervenes. But to date Iíve never missed a month. To do so would be to lose the momentum of continuity and if I did so the chances are Iíd not regain it in a hurry.
I once listened to an interview with Julia Cameron, author of
The Artistís Way
in which she was talking about the inherent power of the act of writing. What I found significant was her underlying assertion that writing in and of itself has little, if anything, to do with being published. Rather, it is a process whereby we are able to make sense of the world and of ourselves. In other words, writing is something we can engage in for our own mental and spiritual wellbeing, a kind of self checking-in process. Itís a view that I happen to share.
How much control do we really have over life and how much of that control do we actually exercise? There are so many constraining factors. Radical action is always an option but how often do we actually choose it? Then thereís the question of action and reaction and the motivations underpinning these. I dread the thought of getting to the end of my life and discovering that Iíd made all the wrong choices. But Iím sure many people do. I often worry that Iím not being bold enough in my life choices and that I take too much for granted.
Some days I donít feel like taking the Underground even though itís a quicker route to work, opting instead for the bus. There is something more laid back about sitting upstairs on a double-decker and gazing out on the world below. I even enjoy the walk between bus stops. It means that I have to set off a little earlier in the morning but thatís okay; at this time of year thatís not so difficult to do. Sometimes Iíll read, sometimes Iíll listen to music and sometimes Iíll simply sit and let the passing city landscape wash over me.
Every year since moving to London Iíve gone back to Australia in late July for a month, partly to attend to tax matters, partly to check on and maintain our two properties in Melbourne and largely to catch up with family and friends. And because Iím limited to the English summer holiday period I end up missing out on a full English summer while at the same time having two winters each year. Not that I mind. I always enjoy the trip back home. But I have to confess that this year an extended summer holiday would have been nice.
There is something strangely intoxicating about swimming. It’s been nearly three years since I last swam. I became put off by the crowded swimming lanes and sweaty change rooms. But I’ve started again, now choosing the times I go more carefully in order to avoid the peak periods, which essentially limits me to weekend mornings. Nevertheless, I can feel my body responding almost joyously to the physical release that being in water promotes and the almost trancelike experience of swimming laps. Combined with a renewed commitment to a daily yoga routine, my body is beginning to feel years younger again.
It’s not until I start doing yoga again that I realise how much my body has seized up. The stiffening of joints and tightening of muscles occurs gradually and we tend to accommodate this without really thinking about it. Yet after only a week or two of yoga it’s as though my body begins to remember its preference for elasticity and I not only feel more mobile but noticeably more youthful. It makes me mindful of how easy it is to surrender one’s physical agility and the spurious excuses we throw up, like we’re tired or we can’t be bothered.
It’s been hot and muggy these past couple of days and the kids at school could easily have been cranky and horrible. That’s why I’ve adopted a ‘go with the flow’ approach, advising staff not to push too hard or feel duty bound to the curriculum. Sometimes it’s best to take the path of least resistance, especially where one’s sanity is at stake. So far the strategy seems to be working. The staff are keeping a cool collective head while the kids are responding in kind which, given the nature of the kids we work with is no small achievement.
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